Waiting in vain? Metaphysics, modernity and music in the work of T. W. Adorno, Martin Heidegger and Luigi Nona
This work enters into debates about about the meaning and significance of messianism in the Anglophone context of 'continental philosophy'. It does so by investigating the work of two traditionally opposed German philosophers, T. W. Adorno and Martin Heidegger. These figures stand behind the alternative traditions of recent philosophical messianism: historical materialist and neo-Heideggerian, or post-Hegelian and anti-Hegelian. Where the former tradition classically proposes the possibility of progress in, or towards history, without clearly questioning the metaphysical grounds of this \ud possibility, the latter tradition questions the ontological nature of grounding itself, but often at the price of forfeiting a concept of historical change. The tum to messianism within historical materialism, inspired by Walter Benjamin, involves an attempt to give an account of these grounds. While sympathising with the motivation behind this tum, I suggest that it risks upholding a metaphysics that is equally as problematic as the one it opposes. I seek to interpret Adorno's late conception of an expression of 'waiting in vain' as a critique of historical materialist messianism. Since Adorno's idea is fragmentary, and still relies upon traditional metaphysics, it is read in relation to Heidegger's ontological account of waiting, according to his overall understanding of metaphysical modernity as a will to domination. The question of waiting connects the thought of Adorno and Heidegger - this has been understated in the secondary literature. I suggest that the connection is all the more convincing when their respective \ud ideas of waiting are understood in relation to their philosophies of music and of 'the musical'. This theme is examined within a broader context of music and philosophy. It is pursued in order to respond to the overall problematic. A 'musical' concept of waiting can address some of the metaphysical problems encountered in a philosophy 'after' messianism, because it can propose an alternative notion of promise. The example of \ud this expression is the music of Luigi Nono. A critical examination of his works is taken to elucidate the spatiotemporal character of an expression of waiting in vain, in a manner that both enriches and problematises the solely philosophical readings.
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